The given moment and forward momentum
In any race I have ever run, be it a 5k or a 50 miler, there comes a point where I just want to stop. Does this happen to you? For me, it is always when the beginning of the race is long past but the end does not yet seem near. I am just not sure I can make it! That is where we were with our training for Vermont up until today. Why until today? Because today we are past that point in our training. We made it through the part that sucks and are now in the home stretch of our preparations. What an awesome feeling!
I suppose it is all part of the process, but for the Vermont 100 the training just gets to be too much and the balance is lost. Up until the past week or so our training had been going well but we were tired of training and relieved all was supposed to culminate with the epic, written with reverence, Spring Loop. Well, first nobody except Mr. Bimble wanted to go, then Michele got hurt. Also, the weather was hot and I did not want to chase Jerry around the outback of Western Connecticut for ten plus sweltering hours by myself. (I know Jerry, “it might be hot on race day!”) After a series of Facebook messages with Mr. Bimble (Thanks Jerry) and contemplating going on my own in cooler weather (thanks Forest) I decided the loop was not meant to be. I did not make the connection at the time but, sitting here now, I realized both Shelly and I had entered that time in our training that is similar to the part of the race I described earlier. I was doubting if we could do this, things were not working out as we planned, I was getting irritated with everything and everybody, and I just wanted to be done. Luckily, we both just kept moving forward the best we could and today, on Mount Monadnock, we broke through.
After a week of bike rides, swims, physical therapy and drugs Shelly Girl was feeling better so we decided to get back to basics. We just did one of the things we love the most in running, getting to the top of a mountain. Luckily the weather was great on Monday so we got in the car and drove up to Mount Monadnock to clear our heads from… well .. from everything. We had decided to ascend the mountain twice because we both wanted to get in a hard workout plus we wanted to test Michele’s foot. We arrived at the Dublin Trail trail-head and immediately realized I had not brought my hydration pack. Luckily I threw our handhelds in the car before we left and that would have to be enough.
The Dublin Trail is not as heavily used as some other trails on Monadnock and except for one group of hikers we had the trail to ourselves all the way to the summit. With Michele in injury recovery mode, we had planned to hike the entire day but the ascent was gradual and non technical so we ran until the real climbing began. From there it was just a power hike to to the top with lots of great vistas to keep our spirits soaring. With a beautiful blue sky and relativity nice temps we got to the top to find ourselves alone! If you know Mount Monadnock you know this is an amazing gift. I am not sure if it is true, but Monadnock often gets billed as the second most climbed mountain in the world. There are usually dozens of people at the summit so to find it seemingly abandoned was a great treat. Of course nothing is perfect in life so we rounded the corner to find a father and son sitting and enjoying the beautiful day. I stupidly said,”I thought we were the only ones up here” and the father retorted “so did we” . Ha! It all worked out as we were there to take the rare couple shot for each other and then we headed down the mountain. Michele was having no problems with her “bulging bursa” but, because once we started going down we were committed to another up and down in order to get back to our car, we decided to take a shorter descent to the park headquarters. Off we went, down the White Arrow Trail, enjoying a challenging but beautiful descent off of the mountain. After the rock scrambles, we hit some very runnable downhill and decided to test Michele’s foot and to pound our quads a bit. Always fun to run downhill and we hit the Parker Trail ready to finish the first go round and get some food. The Parker Trail is a wonderful rolling run along the lower side of Monadnock and we covered the ground quickly and got to Park headquarters and a quick break. We bought some vittles and headed out to climb the mountain a second time. What fun!
Our second ascent followed the route we usually take up Monadnock and it is the one I would recommend to any first timers (White Dot to Cascade Link to Pumpelly to the summit). The trail is very runnable, there are almost no other hikers who use this route plus the vistas are plentiful. My most clear memories of our second trip to the top are seeing the father and son, who we had seen on the summit a couple hours earlier, coming down the trail we were going up. The father said “I thought we were the only ones on this trail”. We like that guy, good sense of humor! I also noticed we were slower than usual going up but then again we never climbed the mountain twice before. I also was growing increasingly confident that Shelly Girl was going to get through all of this without any flare up of her injury. I could tell she was doing well because she started getting that lightness in her stride that comes when she is having a good day. It always makes me smile to see her run that way! The weather was starting to break down a bit so we hustled to the top as fast as we were able, this time to be greeted by the masses that usually are at the top of Monadnock. After a quick photo op and some food we took off to find the Dublin trail and to complete our day. The second descent was probably the hardest section to complete. We were at that “quit” part of the day and our quads were getting tired of the pounding. The weather was starting to get sketchy and we felt bad for the several groups of hikers who passed us heading up to the summit. I was glad we were going down. We hit the flatter last section and it felt great to open up our stride and run back to the car. Almost immediately it began to pour and we enjoyed a rain filled, ice on our feet,drive back to Connecticut tired and content.
Looking back I am glad I missed the Loop and climbed Monadnock instead. For one it reminded me what I have always known about life and that is things happen for a reason. Doing the loop without Michele would not have been nearly as therapeutic as the run we did in New Hampshire. The change also reminded me to be grateful for the given moment and not to worry about the past or for that matter the future. I have no doubt missing the Spring Loop is leaving both Shelly and I a bit short from our training goals for Vermont but we are happy and healthy and I am hopeful that the lessons and reminders of the last eight or nine days will help us in about three weeks. Moving forward as best as you can, knowing yourself, trusting your instincts, embracing what the moment offers are tools that I will need in the race as much as the strength of my legs. Also, Shelly and I must be aware of the many times that we will want to quit and just keep going. Because the other thing I notice about every race I have ever been in is that if you have faith and keep going the best that you are able in the given moment you inevitably break through the barrier and accomplish the goal. It may not be the goal you wished for or planned but it is always the goal that is meant to be and that is enough reason to celebrate.
Well, that is about that. Shelly and I want to wish good luck to Jerry, Denise, Brian, Alex in the 100 and to Brendan in the 100k. Good luck as well to everybody crewing. I hope Vermont is ready for the invasion of the Bimblers. For us, the next three weeks we are going to try and get as healthy as we can in both mind, and body. We are nervous and unsure what lies ahead for us on race day but it is time to kick back a bit, add the last few small pieces of our training plan, and then toe the line. We do not know what the day will hold but, barring any unforeseen happenings, we are going to be able to find out and no matter what challenge we all decide to tackle in our lives that is what it is all about.
See ya on the trail